Karios

29 09 2008

 
Karios is a Greek word that means “when all things come together” and the identifier for a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area.  Their web page is worth a visit to get a flavor for what this new church is all about. They are part of Great Commission Ministries, an affiliation of missional churches – many of which serve university campuses (including a new church plant at FSU). Yes, this is cutting edge but not without solid backing (with guys like Rick Warren, Howard Hendricks, John Maxwell and Luder Whitlock on their Council of Reference).

In particular I thought their vision statement was well written and provides an excellent example of what a church in our post-Christendom culture should be about: 

As a community we are
          gathering a variety of wounded people together
                    crying out to our Creator
                              “breathe new life into us.”
                                        so we can see broken communities…
                              becoming communities of faith
                    bringing the reality of God’s reign
          neighborhood by neighborhood

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“Atheist”

25 09 2008





Catalyst for church

25 09 2008

“Building an organization is an intoxicating substitute for being a church, because it allows us to work toward being a church without really being a church.”

Chad Hall authored a provocative perspective on “church” in 2004 (see below) that I think provides a helpful perspective for those of us seeking change in how we “do church” in North America. What Chad’s perspective opens up for us is the ability to separate in our thinking the institution from the church. This distinction may at first appear as a distinction without a difference but once you think it through it is very significant.

One of my initial thoughts is to move toward a more accurate use of terms – perhaps we should begin calling our local church institutions “catalyst” rather than “church?” No doubt at first this would be awkward… First Baptist Catalyst, Redeemer Catalyst, etc. but it may help us refocus our effort and passion and appreciate the proper role and limitation of the institution. Furthermore, this refocusing is especially important during this time of liminality. We are quickly leaving modernity and the institutionalism of that period to a time that will likely see the church carried without strong association with institutional structures.

Why Church Isn’t Really a Church

“Anyone familiar with Bill Hybels has heard it: “The hope of the world is the local church.” On dozens of occasions, I heard the phrase and nodded in agreement. The phrase led me to commit or recommit myself to serving the local church. The phrase caused me to weep. The phrase gave orientation to my life and to my work.

But lately when I hear it, my response is different. No commitment. No tears. No direction. Just a one-word question filled with doubt: “Really?”

I’m starting to believe the hope of the world cannot possibly rest with the 501(c)3 not-for-profit religious organizations dotting our landscape and holding themselves out to be “churches.” It just can’t be true.

It’s not that I doubt God or the unique and saving nature of Jesus; I truly believe Jesus is the hope of the world. I do not doubt that God’s plan is to empower and inspire ordinary people to carry the life-giving message of salvation. I do not even doubt that communities of believers are the God-ordained means for carrying out this grand plan. What I doubt is that what passes for “church” these days is the manifestation of Jesus in our world. I even doubt that my own church is a church.

Jesus died for this?

Why all the doubt? Like other congregations, the one I serve strives to be an authentic church, but we get in our own way. Simply put, our chief aim is not to connect people to God, each other, and the world, but to build an organization that does so. The distinction is subtle but significant.

Building an organization isn’t an inherently evil thing to do, nor is it necessarily counterproductive to spiritual aims. Indeed, modernity gifted humans to become more efficient and effective in building organizations. Businesses, governments, and charities give us meaningful and productive work when they are better organized. There’s nothing wrong with that. But building an organization is not the same as being a church, even if the aim of the organization is to do the work of Jesus.

Building an organization is an intoxicating substitute for being a church, because it allows us to work toward being a church without really being a church.

The pain of all this strikes church leaders especially hard. Deep down, not one of us believes the organization we serve is a true expression of authentic Christian community. Each of us thinks, “THIS is what Jesus gave his life for? No way!”

We are right to be suspicious. But we are also knee-deep in this pursuit of church and we find it easy to ignore the obvious sense of dis-ease that bugs us. After all, we attend seminars and conferences, we read books and go to school, we pray and fast, we develop our leadership and preaching skills-all to the aim of organizing the church so that it can express and grow the Kingdom of God. But we never get there. The organization gets tweaked, and sometimes overhauled. We try an array of programs, processes, personalities and powerfully alliterated points. But a real live church is still beyond our experience. We just cannot organize well enough to accomplish the goal of building a church. The best we will do is to build an organization that is well-structured, well-balanced, and well-aimed at being a church. But the organization will never be a church.

Whatever your definition of authentic church is, you know the congregation you serve is not there. Nor will it ever get there. Read the rest of this entry »





Redefine, restructure, repackage and refocus

24 09 2008

Chuck Warnock pastors a small Baptist church in Chatham, Virginia, is a writer for Outreach Magazine and an alum of Mercer University, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and currently working on a DMin. at Fuller Seminary.  I found his thoughts regarding the future of the (North American) church in the context of the economic, energy and environmental crises to be both well reasoned and compelling.  Is it coincidental that these crises are producing pressure in much the same direction as changes needed to become missional in the context of our post-Christendom culture?

Here are Chuck Warnock’s thoughts:

“I see churches adapting to these three interrelated crises – energy, economy, and environment – in several ways:

Redefinition of “church.” Church will no longer be the place we go, church will be the people we share faith with. Churches will still meet together for worship at a central time and location, but that will become secondary to the ministry performed during the week. Church buildings will become the resource hub in community ministry, like the old Celtic Christian abbeys. Church impact will replace church attendance as the new metric.

Restructuring of church operations. Due to the high cost of fuel and a struggling economy, churches will become smaller, more agile, and less expensive to operate than in the past. Churches will need to provide direct relief to individuals and families with meal programs, shelters, clothing, job training, and more. In the not-distant-future, we will live in a world where government is increasingly unable to fund and provide those services. Church buildings will become increasingly more expensive to maintain, and churches with unused weekday space will consider partnerships with businesses, other ministries, and helping agencies. Or churches will sell their conventional buildings and reestablish in storefronts that operate as retail businesses 6 days a week, and gathering places on Sunday (or Thursday or whenever). Churches will focus outwardly on their “parish” more than inwardly on their members. Church staff will become more community-focused rather than church-program focused, and become team leaders in new missional ventures.

Repackaging of “sermons” and Christian education. With fewer people “attending” church, fewer will also attend Christian education classes. Churches will deliver Christian education content via mobile devices. Short video clips accessible from iPhones (and other smart devices) will be the primary content carriers for church and culture. Church “members” (if that quaint term actually survives) will still gather, but more for monthly celebrations, fellowship, and sharing than weekly meetings, worship, or learning. Of course, there may be several monthly celebrations geared to different lifestyles (tribes), schedules, and preferences. Again, the abbey concept of the church as hub with many smaller groups revolving around the resource center.

Refocus from institution to inspiration. Okay, so I went for the easy alliteration there. Restated, less emphasis on the “church” and more on how the church enables its adherents to live their faith. Declining church attendance is not a crisis of faith, it’s a crisis of delivery. We can bemoan the fact that fewer people come to church, but ballgames are not suffering from declining attendance. People go to what they want to go to. Church ministry has to focus on engaging people in meaningful ways that enable their spiritual journeys. In a world in crisis, people are looking for something to believe in as institution after institution crumbles. If banks, businesses, and whole countries fail, where can we put our trust? Church should have the answer 24/7, delivered like everything else is delivered now – when people want it, at their convenience, and in a way that resonates with them.

None of the things I have suggested here are new. But, the thing that makes them more viable now is the convergence of all three crises at one time.”





Friday is for videos

19 09 2008

Michael Frost is an Australian teacher, writer and church leader, and one of Australia’s leading communicators and evangelists. He is the Director of the Centre for Evangelism and Glocal Mission at Morling Baptist Seminary in Sydney, Australia.  He has authored numerous books including Seeing God in the Ordinary (©Hendrickson, 2000), The Shaping of Things to Come with Alan Hirsch (©Hendrickson, 2003) and Exiles (©Hendrickson, 2006).

In August 2007 Michael spoke at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) conference along with John Ortberg (the 2008 conference speakers included Rick Warren and Alan Hirsch).  Who is PGF? – you can check out their web page but I think what they say at the beginning of their “Covenant 2008” describes what they are about quite well: 

“The mainline church is in crisis. We have turned
our eyes inward and have lost the central focus of
the New Testament church: its apostolic calling to
bear witness to Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
We live in a time when our own culture is a mission
field, and we acknowledge that maintaining old
institutions and systems leads neither to renewal
nor to faithfulness in God’s mission.

The mandate of the Gospel and the needs of
the world are urgent.

We confess that the living and reigning
Lord Jesus Christ alone is the hope of the world.

We believe that the Father sent the Son into the
world out of love (John 3:16) and that the church is
not an end in itself but a gift given to the world in
order that all may believe (John 17:21).

We believe Christ is calling us to recommit
ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture and to
the faithful summaries of biblical teaching found in
the historic Reformed confessions.

We believe Christ is calling us, as covenantal
people, to be transformed by his indwelling
Holy Spirit and to be empowered by the Spirit
for faithful witness.

We believe Christ is calling us to move beyond
confidence in our own capacity and culture to a
new interdependence with others in the global
Body of Christ.

We believe Christ is calling for significant
transformation of our congregations, both in who
we are and what we do, as we engage in God’s
missional purpose for the church.

We believe it is time to gather anew around
God’s mission to the world…”

What Michael Frost has to say in the following discussion is very important explanation of missional and how our ecclesiology needs to be realigned:





Flat church

19 09 2008

If there was ever an issue of Leadership Journal to read it is Spring 2008. In this issue some of the key church leadership in liminality issues are explained and discussed. Fortunately several of the articles are online – I discussed one of them in a previous post titled Are We Missing The APE’s? 

In addition to the main content of this issue, Skye Jethani, the managing editor, wrote a few introductory comments that provide a good framework to view the leadership issues faced by many churches in North America:

Facebook, a social networking website with over 67 million members. The premise of the site is simple-create a profile about yourself and then assemble a network of friends with whom you share your information. The intriguing part is the way Facebook will automatically alert you to people within your friends’ networks that you may want to “friend.” It’s like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with your own life. Within days of launching my profile, my network of friends spanned four continents.Open source websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia represent a shift in the way we access information and understand authority. To borrow Thomas Friedman’s popular terminology – the world is flat. Traditional hierarchies are being leveled by the forces of globalization and technology. Bloggers now break news stories before network media can, and Hollywood studios have seen box office sales decline as they compete with independent movie makers on YouTube.

These same leveling forces are at work within the church. Brian Gray, a pastor from The Next Level Church (page 24), says, “Our generation is redefining authority. . . . The previous generation viewed authority organizationally. You knew who had authority because of their title and where they were on the chart. For us authority is more about character and authenticity.” Eight years ago TNL Church dispensed with a senior pastor to implement a team leadership model.

They are not alone. I’m in touch with churches from South Carolina to California that intentionally avoid a “senior” pastor in favor of a team model. But, as TNL’s Dave Terpstra says, “Just because we believe in a flattened structure doesn’t mean we don’t believe in leadership.” These flat churches prefer a more collaborative, open source style, but they are still committed to seeing the mission advance.

Others embrace a team model in order to restore spiritual gifts that have left the local church. On our blog Out of Ur (www.OutofUr.com), a vigorous conversation erupted over why so many gifted evangelists and thinkers leave pastoral ministry for parachurch or academic settings. Alan Hirsch (page 32) contends that traditional church hierarchy has elevated the gifts of teaching and shepherding and marginalized the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic gifts. A flatter leadership structure is one way to keep these vital functions within the church.

Most congregations haven’t responded to the flattening cultural forces to this degree, but that doesn’t mean they have not felt their effects. The importance of “teambuilding” has been on the radar screen of most pastors for years. Managing team systems among the staff, volunteers, or elder boards is a core challenge of pastoral ministry today.

Is a level church structure with team leadership more biblical? More effective? Will it lead to anarchy or gridlock in the pews? Time will tell. But I hope the articles in this issue help you navigate the flat new world of 21st century ministry.

Skye Jethani
Managing editor
Leadership Journal

 





Leadership shifts

18 09 2008

Picking up on the topic of hierarchical leadership introduced in the post The Collaborative Potential, I think the late Robert Webber did an excellent job of explaining the paradigmatic change in his widely read book titled, The Younger Evangelicals  (©Baker Books 2002).  Following is a chart he used to illustrate the leadership shifts: